Obama, Biden welcome Specter -- all stress he's "mavericky"
The five-term Senator was welcomed at a brief event in the Diplomatic Reception room with the vice president acting as the opening act. An opening act who really, really, really likes the main attraction.
"Arlen Specter has been my friend and my confidant and my partner, and I his partner, in scores and scores of major, major pieces of legislation and issues for a long time," he said.
"We’ve ridden the train for so many years, we’ve visited each other’s homes, our families, that it is ... a point of personal privilege, it’s just a delight to have no separation."
Then in what would be a trend for the three speakers, Biden cautioned those who might think that Specter's change of party affiliation meant he'll turn into a sheep for the party.
"Anyone who thinks that Arlen is going to cash in his independence politically has another thing coming," Biden said.
It would have been far more newsworthy had Specter disagreed with Biden on that point, but instead offered himself up as "mavericky".
"I will not be an automatic 60th vote," he said. "There have been positions ... where I stand in a different position from the traditional position of the Democrats, and I will continue that independence."
Although, in a moment of levity (and this is a stretch -- it was really dry), he did take credit for the president's win last November.
"The President approached me when he was Senator Obama, before the Democratic primary. And he said, 'Tell me, Arlen, if a Jewish kid from Kansas can carry Pennsylvania, how can a black kid from Kansas carry Pennsylvania?' And I gave him some advice, and he became President of the United States of America," Specter said to forced laughter.
The president said he was "thrilled" to have Specter join the Democratic caucus and pledged to campaign for him in the 2010 Democratic primary.
Then he said what president's have to say, even if they don't mean it.
"I don’t expect Arlen to be a rubber stamp," Obama said. "I don’t expect any member of Congress to be a rubber stamp. In fact, I’d like to think that Arlen’s decision reflects a recognition that this administration is open to many different ideas and many different points of view; that we seek cooperation and common ground; and that in these 100 days we’ve begun to move this nation in the right direction."
Then, some could say, the president went a bit overboard when he said he looked forward to Senator Specter disagreeing with him.
"I’m eager to receive his counsel and advice, especially when he disagrees," he said. "And I have great respect and admiration for the decision that he has made."
The full text of today's remarks follow the video (below). And don't forget to follow us on Twitter!